February 18, 2013

Project-Level Insights for Landscape Level PES

Landscapes can provide a range of natural benefits, from clean water to carbon sequestration, but often people don’t have the right incentives to manage their lands to maintain these services. Gabrielle Kissinger (Lexeme Consulting) and Henry Neufeldt (World Agroforestry Centre) recount some of the lessons learned on incentives for these environmental benefits in a new paper, Payments for ecosystem services schemes: project-level insights on benefits for ecosystems and the rural poor. Their work elucidates the ways in which taking a landscape perspective to PES can ultimately yield greater efficiency and effectiveness in reaching environmental and livelihood goals.

Over the last 10 years, there has been a significant increase in private and public sector interest to explore payments for ecosystem services (PES), in order to assign value to ecosystem services, and thus promote better land use practices. We recently investigated how PES schemes are faring in meeting the goals of safeguarding ecosystem services, while also benefiting local livelihoods. Based on insights gleaned from thirty-six PES projects and nine case studies, we find that financial benefits can be the enticement needed to change land use practices and build commitment on the part of ecosystem service providers to steward resources. In most cases non-monetary benefits are also offered, such as improved seed varieties and technical support, resulting in longer-term financial benefits for landholders – often as yield increases, future harvest revenue, and access to markets for products. Our assessment of primarily project-level PES initiatives suggested that landscape-level and mosaic land use PES could result in considerable benefits beyond a field or farm scale. Landscape-level PES has the potential to:

1) Overcome financial challenges experienced at smaller-scales—PES projects often require high set-up and transaction costs, particularly for greenhouse gas emission reduction projects. For these projects it is difficult to draw from a range of funding sources and lower financial risks, but these challenges can be reduced at landscape and mosaic land use scales.

2) Create economies of scale and a mix of solutions to safeguard ecosystem services—For instance, one project in Mozambique aiming to address slash and burn agriculture contains two components that reinforce each other. The revenue-generating Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) component subsidizes the high-cost agroforestry component. Importantly, the agroforestry component enables the REDD+ component of the project to succeed, as it directly affects local drivers of deforestation. Thus, the two project components enable and support each other. Another REDD+ project, in Lao PDR, applies a landscape level approach by going beyond the forestry sector. The project promotes increased soil fertility and crop productivity in areas of shifting cultivation, linking the improved agricultural methods and forest conservation goals directly in the ecosystem service contracts.

3) Increase the ability to identify and mitigate leakage effects—Changing land use in one area can simply shift that use to another area, potentially negating benefits of PES interventions. Larger jurisdictional and landscape scale initiatives hold greater potential to monitor and counter this effect.

4) Provide greater ability to promote partnerships and engage the suite of actors necessary for change—Project-level PES often do not involve coordination with local governments, multiple sectors, and a diversity of stakeholders. These interactions can help determine how PES ‘investments’ relate to other tools, such as regulations, to motivate change in land or water use. Landscape-scale PES initiatives are more likely to involve multiple interests in finding solutions. This can also overcome equity (particularly between different user groups of the same resource) and fairness challenges identified in project-scale PES.

5) Provide flexibility to find the most appropriate solutions—Landscape-scale, sub-regional, and national-level PES (the best example of the latter is REDD+) can facilitate a shift from solely promoting markets or government interventions, to finding the optimal mix of incentives, disincentives, and enabling conditions. This avoids overpaying for interventions solely based on evaluation of opportunity costs, and provides opportunities for regulations and investment to be mutually supportive of each other.

This study’s findings have significance for considerations in future PES design and implementation. If we are trying to obtain benefits greater than the sum of individual PES projects, a landscape approach just may be the answer.

Related Reading:
Payments for ecosystem services schemes: project-level insights on benefits for ecosystems and the rural poor – Gabrielle Kissinger, Caitlin Patterson, and Henry Neufeldt

Another Look at REDD with a Landscape Lens – Landscapes Blog

Photo credit: Trees for the Future

2 Comments

  • Roddy Hale
    February 18, 2013 at 5:04pm

    A really interesting extension of the PES idea and one that integrates livelihoods at a scale greater than the farmscape. Thanks for the summary – I’ll use this in class later this year ;)

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